Fit for purpose
Published: 31 March, 2009
With no EN standard for USAR helmets, how can a fire brigade ensure it has the best solution for its special operations teams? F&R places Vincent Azibert of MSA Gallet on the hot seat and asks, what is the ideal helmet configuration for USAR operations?
Vincent Azibert of MSA Gallet recommends a ratchet-type helmet for brigades that share equipment.
In many countries it is still the norm for firefighters to wear structural firefighting helmets for USAR incidents – a situation that is not ideal when lighter protection would be much better suited. And for those that want a better solution for their rescue teams, the situation is not helped by the fact that in Europe (as opposed to the US) there isn’t even a standard for technical rescue helmets. This makes choosing such a piece of kit potentially problematic.
Vincent Azibert of MSA Gallet points out that the lack of a standard means that USAR helmets tend to rely on other application standards that are close to USAR eg industrial protection, or mountain rescue helmet standards.
MSA’s F2-XTREM helmet has been designed for rescue missions and forest firefighting, complying with EN 12492 (mountain rescue helmets) and requirements of EN397 (industrial safety helmets), MSA’s experience in
other applications. It is available in a plethora of configurations and accessories, which turn it into a truly multi-functional piece of kit.
So what accessories are a “must-have”, and what a “would-like-to-have”, when it comes to USAR?
A ratchet-type fitting device on a helmet is a must-have feature in brigades where equipment is shared, points out Azibert. The ratchet feature means that different users can quickly and easily adjust the helmet to their optimum comfortable fit (this feature comes as standard in all MSA’s helmets).
Azibert next recommends a vented shell for a USAR helmet. “Vented is better than non-vented because USAR operations can last for a long time, and the more air circulation there is the more comfortable the firefighter will be.”
Next on the list is chin straps – nobody wants a helmet to drop off during an operation, so a solid, three-point attachment is a must.
Helmet-mounted goggles are also important, and Azibert recommends dust-proof, gas-proof goggles with a tight fit on the face. “Rescue helmets are often used in wildland firefighting, so goggles that are gas-proof are a good idea to have.”
Next is light. The F2-XTREM comes with an optional, detachable helmet-mounted torch, but what is critical for USAR is that any light source is ATEX-approved for use in explosive atmospheres. “Some light manufacturers can provide torches with helmet mounts but whichever option firefighters go for, they should always ensure that the torches and lamps are ATEX approved.”
Our expert points out that task-specific PPE such as technical rescue head protection is increasingly gaining acceptance.